Libraries to return to Windsor Catholic schools

The Windsor Public Library and the Catholic school board are working on a partnership to save the school board's libraries from extinction.

'We're going to call them libraries. Point well taken,' says board

The Windsor Public Library and the region's Catholic School system are working on a partnership to save the school board's libraries from extinction.

Last spring, the board made a controversial move to remove most of the books from its school libraries.

Helping to negotiate the deal is Ward 10 city councillor and library board chair Al Maghnieh. He is a big fan of technology and is all for modernizing libraries to make them relevant to young people. He helped create teen zones in branches of the Windsor Public Library.

But, Maghnieh also believes libraries need books. That's why he approached the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board about a partnership.

"Essentially, what we're doing is helping the Catholic school board reopen libraries in their schools and really designing them to [be] effective [in the] modern age now," Maghnieh told CBC News.

'Learning commons rooms' scrapped

The Catholic school board sparked outrage among students and parents in April by laying off library staff and moving most books into its classrooms.

The board laid out a plan for what it called 'learning commons rooms,' wireless computer labs with a few resource books.

Some schools, like Holy Names High School, removed all the books from the central location.

"That's not a library. That's just a computer lab with TVs," said Maghnieh. "That's not how we want to proceed and so we're going to sit down together and work together to put these facilities on the right track and on the leading edge."

Maghnieh approached the board about a partnership in September.

"Their suggestion was that we have some greater collection of books... and on high interest things to excite children in particular about reading."

The school board promised to call the centres 'libraries', after scrapping the title in its earlier plans.

"We buy in and so we are not going to call them 'learning commons' and we're not going to call them 'idea rooms'. We're going to call them libraries. Point well taken," said Paul Picard, Director of Education.

More details to be worked out

The plan would be to open the school libraries to the public after hours with access to the Windsor Library data banks.

Maghnieh said the school libraries will be outfitted differently during and after school hours to best suit the users' needs at any given time.

"I would like it to be a community gathering space," said Lisa Boudreau, principal at St. Christopher Elementary School.

The Windsor Public Library would increase its book circulation by giving library cards to all students in the Catholic board and their families.

The school board would not say what this will cost yet, or how it would staff its libraries.

As for the Greater Essex County District School Board, Maghnieh said he made the same offer to that board.

With files from Pat Jeflyn